Trying to get away from artificial dyes in our food, I kept running into information about using food items to create Easter egg dye. ‘Tis almost the season, so we decided to run a test round to see how a few natural items did with coloring our eggs. We did three eggs per color. The first was dipped for 10 minutes. The second stayed in for 20. The final egg was stored in the dye overnight. We also intentionally stained clothing to determine how easily these dyes could be removed from fabric.
There was not much of a difference between the 10-minute soak and the 20-minute soak. There was a huge difference between both and the overnight soak (we left them in for 12 hours).
These colors did not set right away, so removal was a little tricky. The colors are not uniform, and you can see that there are fingerprints and bubbles on the surface. Once the eggs are dry, they are set, so a more careful removal process will probably result in a more even coloring – my method of reaching in and grabbing with two fingers was not very successful with the overnight eggs.
- Place a handful or two of the food in a saucepan, then add water at least 1 inch above the dye items.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer about 15 minutes
- Cool until it can go into whichever containers you will be using.
- Strain, then add 2+ tsp. of white vinegar per cup of strained liquid.
- Use like a traditional egg dye, noting that it takes a bit longer and the colors will be more muted. Color and store eggs in the refrigerator if you plan on eating them later (the benefit of this method is that you don’t have to worry about dye chemicals getting into your system when you eat the eggs after dyeing them). See notes below regarding colors and results of our testing.
Color ingredients and test results:
- Carrot tops: I used the tops of a single bunch of carrots, the top of the carrot and some of the stem/leaves.
- Result: None. Seriously, there was no change after 10 and 20 minutes, and the overnight result was only a little darker, and it was a little green.
- Notes: This one was a waste of time.
- Red cabbage leaves: I mostly used the outside leaves, so this is a good way to use the leaves that you wouldn’t normally prepare for a meal.
- Result: This was my favorite. The cabbage produced a nice blue color for the eggs.
- Notes: I had qualms about boiling cabbage for 15 minutes, so I brought the mixture to a boil, then removed it from the heat and covered it. It was still a little stinky, but nothing like it would have been had I followed the same method with cabbage as I had with the other veggies.
- Spinach: I used half of a package of frozen spinach.
- Result: No coloring at 10 and 20 minutes. Gross coloring after soaking overnight.
- Notes: The dye-making process was a little stinky.
- Red wine: 2 cups of wine (we used Cabernet), 4 tsp. vinegar, no boiling necessary.
- Result: The colors were nice with this one, but there were a lot of bubbles. This made the darker color a little mottled in the end. I think that a different technique for removal might have helped.
- Notes: This one stained clothing, so keep it in mind.
- Beets: I used canned beets, but the recipes also report that using pickled beet juice works as well.
- Result: It was a purplish-pink early on. After soaking overnight, it was more of a maroon or brown.
- Notes: I’d go with the 20-minute version if I did this one in the future. I enjoyed the darker, brownish color, but it didn’t really scream “Easter!”
- Carrots: I used a single bunch, cut into large pieces. I could tell it wasn’t cutting the mustard, so I added 1/8 cup chili powder.
- Result: The 10- and 20-minute versions were prettier than the overnight result. It was a bit more brown than orange. I actually kind of enjoyed the color, especially the lighter version, but it’s not for someone looking for orange.
- Notes: This was a freaking train wreck on almost every level. The mix was very gritty, so I tried rinsing the excess off, but I was worried that it would mess with the dye. So, the eggs were a little speckled. This one also stained the clothing swatch. All in all, probably not worth the time.
Overall? This is not a project I would repeat. Some of the dyes “took,” but they didn’t look all that great. Also, the only way to get bright colors is to soak the eggs overnight, so this is not something I would do with kids. And really, why else are you coloring Easter Eggs?